Public Release: 

Kent scientists unlock secrets of falcon DNA

University of Kent

Researchers in the University of Kent have made significant strides towards understanding the genomes - and hence the biology - of falcons.

A study by a team led by Professor Darren Griffin at the University's School of Biosciences created chromosome-level assemblies and compared three iconic species, the Peregrine, Saker and Gyr falcons.

Many falcons are classified as endangered and are remarkable for their incredible eyesight, acceleration speeds and hunting skills. Studying their genomes helps understand a wide range of aspects of falcon biology, including morphology, ecology, and physiology, as well as being essential for conservation efforts.

Furthermore, whole genome sequencing enables an understanding of how the genome relates to physical characteristics, e.g., growth, development, maintenance and disease resistance.

The researchers focussed specifically on the overall organization of the genome, expressed as an arrangement of chromosomes. The ultimate aim of any genome sequencing effort is to assign all or most of the genes to the appropriate chromosomes, with each gene or marker in order - in essence, creating a genomic map.

Making such a map of the genome in relation to the chromosomes (a so-called 'chromosome-level assembly') can aid genomic selection in breeding regimes and it also allows comparisons between species. Despite this, many animals - although having their genome sequenced - have not until recently had a chromosome-level genome assembly, and this had also applied to falcons.

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The approach was developed at Kent in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.The paper, entitled Chromosome level genome assembly and comparative genomics between three falcon species reveals a pattern of genome organization not typical for birds, (Joseph S.*, O'Connor R.E.*, Al-Mutery A.*, Watson M.*, Larkin D.M*. and Griffin, D.K*.) is published in the journal Diversity. https://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/10/4/113

For more information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.
Tel: 01227 816768
Email: M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk

News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news

University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Notes to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It was ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

In 2018 it was also ranked in the top 500 of Shanghai Ranking's Academic Ranking of World Universities and 47th in the Times Higher Education's (THE) new European Teaching Rankings.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

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